Monday, July 22, 2013

Bilingualism & Careers

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Bilingualism & Careers

by Steve Brachmann

In the professional world, there are many qualifications that can set your application and resume apart from much of the competition. The ability to both speak and understand a foreign language is extremely valuable in numerous career settings, from social workers to teachers to government officials. As the world becomes more interconnected and the ability to speak more than one language grows in importance, bilingualism is quickly becoming a strong reason to hire an applicant.


A multitude of government jobs are available to American citizens who are fluent in more than one language. For instance, public contact professionals with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) often have to communicate with ethnic minority groups that are more fluent in their foreign tongue than in English. Where government agencies need officials and representatives to communicate with immigrants or foreign parties, the need for bilingual professionals is high. According to recent information from the U.S. Census Bureau, one-fifth of Americans speak a language other than English in the household.


According to a 2009 poll published by the business executive recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International, about 31 percent of business executives are capable of speaking two or more languages. About 20 percent of those executives could speak three or more languages. Much like government positions, business executives must often converse with foreign business partners from different cultures. This makes an understanding of the partner's foreign culture extremely important.

Pay Scale

Fluency in two languages is an asset for which most companies are willing to pay extra. A bilingual professional can earn from 5 percent up to 20 percent extra over the base salary for their profession, depending upon the importance of bilingualism to the position. Nearly 20 percent of bilingual speakers earn salaries in excess of $100,000.


The increasing globalization of the business world has enhanced the importance of being a career professional with the ability to speak in more than one language. Most American business recruiters believe that bilingual capabilities will become a major requirement for many business positions over the next decade. Among foreign languages, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese are large needs among many professional career sectors; Spanish-speaking minorities make up a large part of the American population and the Chinese economy has grown tremendously in recent years.

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